Pelicans crush Thunder in strong bounceback effort
On New Year’s Eve in Oklahoma City, the best player for the New Orleans Pelicans got thrown out of the game in the third quarter while its other star spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
It seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Instead, it was a disastrous night for the Thunder.
In a balanced team effort, New Orleans placed seven players in double figures to cruise to an impressive 113-80 victory at Oklahoma City.
For the last week, it has been a rant of mine on my radio shows on 106.1 FM for the Pelicans to consider playing smaller.
Of course, the matchups are always a predictor, an indicator of what is possible and when you can play a certain way.
Given the way the New Orleans Pelicans bench had played in all but one game in meaningful minutes, it was time to give it a try.
The opponent was lesser.
Oklahoma City is in a rebuilding mode and they are not a big team, either.
Of course, the Thunder were at home.
That said, Stan Van Gundy, a good coach, is trying to find an identity for his team in his first season on the job.
Van Gundy went with a four guard lineup for much of the second quarter Thursday night and it paid off.
Most notably, the player we have been extoling to get on the floor more did so and it will be hard to get him out of the door and back to the bench soon.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker finished with 14 points, three assists and two steals in 18 minutes. Alexander-Walker is more of a scorer than a playmaker, more of a two-guard than a point.
He can attack the rim and finish with either hand and get to the free throw line. Alexander-Walker will only get better with experience but he needs to play to do so. His decision making will improve. If Alexander-Walker can shoot threes with some consistency, he will be a tough cover for anyone.
The other story was the return to Oklahoma City by Steven Adams, who played in outstanding fashion for the Thunder for seven seasons.
Adams had 14 points and 10 rebounds, two assists a steal and a block. Once again, Adams, who makes great decisions, good passes and sets monster picks to free teammates, did not have a turnover in 31 minutes.
Eric Bledsoe stepped up after three poor games in succession and played very well with 17 points and three rebounds in 25 minutes.
Lonzo Ball came through with 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a good all around performance.
Josh Hart was outstanding off the bench with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
New Orleans destroyed the Thunder 58-40 on the boards and won the turnover battle, forcing 19 while committing 13.
The New Orleans defense was outstanding, holding Oklahoma City to just 37.5 percent shooting from the field. The Pelicans dominated in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 54-30.
Ingram was ejected for a flagrant foul with three minutes to play in the third quarter. He left the game with 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
That could have had a big affect but New Orleans played extremely well without him, stretching the lead out consistently the rest of the way.
The Pelicans did it largely without Williamson, who was in foul trouble most of the night. Zion played just 17 minutes, scoring 12 points and five rebounds with three turnovers.
It was huge for New Orleans to prove it could play well without its two most productive offensive players.
Of course, it came against what should be a bottom-feeder in the Western Conference as the Thunder are clearly in a rebuilding mode, a large reason Billy Donovan departed at the end of last season.
Still, it was not just a victory.
After getting blown out at Phoenix, the Pelicans responded well, blowing out its next opponent.
Now 3-2, the Pelicans will host the Raptors Saturday evening.
New Orleans beat Toronto at Tampa 113-99 to open the season on Dec. 23.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…